The Soul Feed

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6 things I learned at the end of my breastfeeding journey

By Nicola Poole IN Discover

Breastfeeding would have to be one of the most discussed topics when it comes to a baby. That and probably sleep (or lack of it!).

With many differing views on breastfeeding, there is a lot to contemplate when you have a baby. How long will you breastfeed for, what to do if you can’t breastfeed, what to do if you choose not to breastfeed? Is breastfeeding in public acceptable? Did your mum breastfeed? What’s the cultural norm?

For myself, breastfeeding was a no brainer. As a qualified nutritionist, there’s no denying all the benefits of breastmilk for a baby. I was going to do everything I could and stop at nothing to breastfeed my child for at least the first 12 months. Or so I thought…

Whilst you’re pregnant and deciding how you’re going to bring this little spirit into the world, especially your first child, you may do all the research and decide very conclusively on what approach you’ll take.

Then baby arrives and you very quickly work out that not everything goes to plan. Every baby has their unique needs and challenges that no amount of preparation can ever prepare you for!

I had the homebirth I had dreamed of. Sure the 36-hour labour was longer than I had anticipated, but I had birthed my baby girl in the comfort of my home which was all I could wish for and surely that meant the hard part was over and done with right? Wrong! That’s when our challenges truly began.

Our healthy daughter decided she wasn’t going to latch to feed. I tried everything but it was like she just didn’t know what to do and wasn’t in the slightest bit interested. Instead, I hand expressed and fed her via a syringe. This worked for a while then she started to dislike the syringe and colostrum in her mouth. That’s when we decided we had better take her to the local hospital to be checked out. Everything seemed completely normal aside from a persistent gurgle and her not wanting to feed.

36 hours after she was born we were being transferred to the children’s hospital for more testing as it was then apparent that she had low oxygen saturation. She started receiving IV fluids and my milk via a nasogastric (NG) tube.

Little did I know that this hospital would become our home for the next month. With a myriad of tests run and no formal diagnosis offered, we were informed our daughter had a weak suck swallow which prevented her from feeding orally and meant she needed frequent suctioning to remove excess saliva she couldn’t swallow.

I was expressing every 3 hours to ensure she continued to receive my milk and this became my reality. Despite the numerous attempts to offer her my breast, I was left with nothing but the feeling of defeat and rejection. She would not latch to feed. My dream of breastfeeding my baby was shattered.

For the next 10.5 months, my pump went everywhere with me. I set alarms to pump in the middle of the night, I pumped in the car and I pumped in disabled toilets at a wedding and even at the snowfields.

Pumping was far from my ideal, but I was so grateful that my daughter was able to have her mother’s milk. Thankfully, I had a good supply so was able to meet her daily requirements easily. The pumping was pain-free (until around the 7-month mark when I developed pump rash), but it was bearable. Thankfully, I only nearly developed mastitis on one occasion and I was able to donate over 120L of my milk to help other mums and babies in need.

When the pump rash and constant need to structure my day around pumping started to take its toll after around 10 months, I decided it was time to begin the process of weaning. I had enough milk in the freezer to continue feeding my daughter until her first birthday and was emotionally and mentally exhausted.

What I wasn’t prepared for, was the loss and grief associated with weaning. Despite feeling ready to wean, it was an emotional rollercoaster as hormones and my thoughts played havoc. Was I being selfish? Was it too soon to wean? Had I failed? Was I less than other mums who breastfed or pumped for over 12 months? I even missed the feeling of offering my baby something that I felt was so precious.

I felt guilty and questioned whether or not I was making the ‘right’ decision. But now in hindsight, as I look back, there are some really valuable lessons that my breastfeeding journey taught me:

  • To release any expectations 

  • That my best is good enough 

  • To resist the urge to compare 

  • To trust that when it’s time to wean, you’ll know 

  • That self-care is paramount 

  • That it’s OK to ask for help 

Breastfeeding is a unique journey for each child and mum. It might not be easy but it can be oh so worth it. Know that it really is for such a moment in time and that whatever you choose to do, or not do, is completely right for you!

Nicola Poole

With a belief that everything happens for a reason, Nicola trusts that we are given all we need to be able to handle any situation life throws at us. With a deep determination and curious spirit, she loves connecting with other women to both learn from and assist in any way she can. Nicola is a qualified yoga instructor, spiritual counselor, and parenting coach on a mission to support you on your path to wellness. She holds qualifications in Human Nutrition, Concomitant Healing and a Bachelor of Science in Medicinal Chemistry. As a devoted mum, Nicola values family and commitment. She is committed to providing you the very best possible care in order to achieve true wellness and live the life you dream of.

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